Children and youth who have been continuously exposed to domestic violence and abuse are at higher risks of experiencing psychological, developmental, and social damages that influence their future lives. In the most severe cases, abused children can lose their ability to be empathetic to other people. Among other implications, children and youth experience social isolation and do not feel accepted by their peers. To address the adverse social, economic, biological, and environmental impact of domestic violence against children, effective prevention and management strategies need to be implemented on community and individual levels. This paper will focus on the exploration of the mentioned above effects to form an idea of how children and youth suffer from domestic violence.
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Biologic Effects on Domestic Violence
Recent research on child brain development showed that domestic violence against children could negatively affect their biologic processes that heavily rely on psychological conditioning. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was found to be one of the negative implications of child abuse that directly affect brain development. PTSD is defined as a mental disorder that usually develops after a person was exposed to a stressful experience, such as violence, assault, warfare, or others.
As found by Tsavoussis, Stawicki, Stoicea, and Papadimos (2014), domestic violence is severe enough to cause PTSD among children and thus affect the neurobiology of the brain. The researchers mentioned that “there are compelling differences in neuroanatomy and cognitive function in affected children. These differences suggest the impact of maltreatment causes a significant compromise of brain anatomy and function, including changes in structure, physiology, and signaling pathways” (Tsavoussis et al., 2014, p. 180). This means that such maltreatment as domestic abuse of children and youth could contribute to changes in brain functioning and cause problems in physical development. Because of this, appropriate and timely screening of children who experienced domestic abuse is paramount.
Social Effects of Domestic Violence
Children and youth who have been domestically abused tend to have very low levels of self-efficacy and thus have limited ideas about safety and security that families usually provide. Violence leads to desensitization to social responsibility and therefore causes aggressive behavior, the lack of adequate problem-solving skills, and issues with self-control. The social effects of domestic violence on children in youth are predominantly associated with their engagement in social activities (anti-social behavior) and the relationships they have with parents and peers.
Social implications include children choosing isolation over interactions with peers because of feeling unprotected from possible abuse on the part of other people as well as choosing to join a gang to exhibit anti-social and violent behaviors that reflect the negative experiences that they have learned when being abused.
To address the social effects of domestic abuse of children and youth, they require a secure and beneficial environment that could facilitate their social development at the pace they need. Parents or caretakers are advised to provide emotional support to children who have been abused and provide examples of positive social behaviors that the youth can later mimic during their social interactions. In both mild and severe cases, the involvement of mental health specialists is required to support children during their recovery from domestic abuse as well as the prediction of possible abuse in families and prevention of its adverse implication (Christian, 2015).
Economic Effects of Domestic Abuse
While domestic violence against children and youth is a serious violation of human rights that has adverse mental and physical implications, it also has significant economic effects for both governments and separate families. According to the recent report conducted by Whiting (2015) from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, child neglect and abuse are estimated to cost around $209 billion a year. The figure is so large because domestic abuse influences children’s and youth’s education, physical and mental health, as well as contributes to the increase in criminality and violence that costs governments large sums of money to address. It is important to mention that some maltreatment and abuse of children can be prevented; however, financial support is needed for the implementation of prevention strategies.
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The economic implications of domestic abuse of children are essential to take into consideration because it is more effective to put monetary resources into prevention strategies rather than the management of abuse that has already taken place. At the moment, global organizations such as UNICEF are commissioning international experts to conduct research on the economic effects of domestic abuse of children and take into account such acts as general neglect, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse as well as witnessing of such abuse.
Environmental Impact of Domestic Abuse
The same way as the environment affects the occurrence of domestic abuse against children, violence also has adverse effects on the environment. According to UNICEF (2012), there is a direct link between domestic child abuse and the risks of victims becoming abusers themselves due to the increasing occurrence of social, physical, and mental issues. As they grow up and experience domestic violence, children gradually show signs of impaired functioning with regards to perceiving the environment around them. Because abuse implies the loss of sense of security and control over a situation, the environmental effects of violence against children are highly visible.
For example, children-victims of domestic abuse that were raised in a violent environment will learn harmful practices on how to dominate others with power and intimidate peers or relatives through using force (UNICEF, 2012). It is also important to understand that those who abuse their children usually encourage violent behaviors against other people since they see them as only opportunities for children to gain respect from peers.
In the context of community development, domestic abuse also affects the environment of communities where children are raised. It is essential to note that many domestic violence cases that involve children remain unreported and thus are invisible to communities. This contributed to the decreased prosperity of neighborhoods and lowered the quality of life of children who cannot seek support from communities when it comes to dealing with domestic violence.
Among prevention and management strategies that can improve the environment within communities, support programs, interviews of children, and screenings have shown to be the most effective (Lane, 2015). Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go when it comes to an understanding of how communities can address the problem of domestic violence against children, and the involvement of local stakeholders may help in raising awareness of this issue.
Recommendations and Conclusion
Adequate measures of preventing domestic child abuse encompass a range of opportunities for communities, healthcare providers, and non-profit organizations concerned with the issue of children’s well-being. According to the research article “Prevention of child maltreatment,” written by Lane (2015), health care providers and public organizations can take the following steps:
- Conduct screenings for child abuse risk factors such as parents’ mental health problems, alcohol and drug abuse, financial insecurity, and so on;
- Identify factors that could enhance families well-being and prevent violence from occurring;
- Provide guidance and financial support to at-risk families and their children;
- Advocate for the introduction and maintenance of community-based services that address the needs of children and youth who experience domestic abuse;
- Advocate for the introduction and maintenance of local, state, and federal programs that identify at-risk families and provide them with the necessary support to prevent child abuse from occurring (Lane, 2015).
To conclude, domestic abuse of children and youth has adverse effects on both victims and people that surround them. Negative experiences associated with abuse cause the development of such conditions as post-traumatic stress disorder that was shown to impair brain development and make permanent changes in children’s functioning. Apart from physical changes in children’s development, domestic violence contributes to the emergence of mental health problems that make abuse victims vulnerable to the pressure from the community and make them reject interactions with peers since they do not feel safe and secure.
Importantly, domestic abuse of children requires the implementation of effective prevention and management strategies, which costs governments millions each year, which points to the fact that domestic violence against children also has economic implications. Lastly, domestic abuse makes communities less safe, suggesting that local and federal organizations (including health care providers) should make both financial and other contributions to addressing the needs of children and youth who experience domestic violence.
Christian, C. (2015). The evaluation of suspected physical abuse. Pediatrics, 135(5), 1337-1354.
Lane, W. G. (2015). Prevention of child maltreatment. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 61(5), 873-888.
Tsavoussis, A., Stawicki, S. P. A., Stoicea, N., & Papadimos, T. J. (2014). Child-witnessed domestic violence and its adverse effects on brain development: A call for societal self-examination and awareness. Frontiers in Public Health, 2, 178-180.
UNICEF. (2012). Behind closed doors: the impact of domestic violence on children. Web.
Whiting, A. (2015). The economic impact of child abuse. Web.